Ex­punge­ment now in­cludes con­vic­tions, drugs, as­sault

The Calvert Recorder - - News - By CHAR­LIE WRIGHT cwright@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Char­lieIndyNews

A new set of Mary­land laws re­gard­ing ex­punge­ment of crim­i­nals records went into ef­fect on Oct. 1, and the num­ber of res­i­dents search­ing for le­gal as­sis­tance at lo­cal le­gal agen­cies is ex­pected to dras­ti­cally in­crease as word spreads of the leg­is­la­tion.

Un­der the Mary­land Jus­tice Rein­vest­ment Act, th­ese changes will now al­low con­vic­tions to be el­i­gi­ble for re­moval from a per­son’s record. Ex­punge­ments ap­ply in Mary­land crim­i­nal (adult) and ju­ve­nile (delin­quency) cases, and a Mary­land em­ployer or ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion may not re­quire, as a con­di­tion of em­ploy­ment or ad­mis­sion, that you dis­close ex­punged in­for­ma­tion about your­self, ac­cord­ing to Mary­land Code.

“At­ten­dance at our le­gal clin­ics is ex­pected to sky­rocket as word gets out,” said Amy Petkovsek, di­rec­tor of Ad­vo­cacy for Train­ing and Pro Bono at Mary­land Le­gal Aid, in a press re­lease. “Un­der th­ese new laws, many more Mary­lan­ders will be el­i­gi­ble for ex­punge­ment of their records, which will open up new em­ploy­ment and hous­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to thou­sands.”

The goal of the act is to re­duce the state’s prison pop­u­la­tion, and in turn re­pur­pos­ing those funds to­ward treat­ment in or­der to cut down on re­peat of­fend­ers. The ad­di­tions to the law will greatly ex­pand the op­por­tu­ni­ties for ex­punge­ments in an area where crim­i­nals pre- vi­ously had lim­ited op­tions.

“For the most part, if you were found guilty of any of the charges in your case, you were out of luck,” said Matthew Stuben­burg, di­rec­tor of IT at the Mary­land Vol­un­teer Lawyers Ser­vice (MVSL). “Un­der the new law, it al­lows for ac­tual con­vic­tions to be ex­punged, al­beit with a 10-year or 15-year wait­ing pe­riod depend­ing on the crime. But at least now there’s an av­enue or a path for­ward.”

MVLS is a statewide or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fer­ing free ser­vices for those in need of le­gal as­sis­tance, strictly in civil cases. It has held sev­eral clin­ics in the South­ern Mary­land re­gion, and in Prince Ge­orge’s and Mont­gomery coun­ties, and is avail­able to help with ex­punge­ment all over Mary­land.

“We have pro bono at­tor­neys around the state that can meet clients any­where. Es­pe­cially with ex­punge­ment, a lot of it can be done strictly through the mail or over the phone,” Stu­den­burg said.

Stuben­burg ex­plained this is the sec­ond ma­jor change to ex­punge­ment laws in re­cent years, as the state did away with the sub­se­quent con­vic­tion rule in 2015. Prior to the change, a per­son could have sev­eral cases el­i­gi­ble for ex­punge­ment, but if they were con­victed of any charge, all of the cases would be locked in. Now, cases will be judged on their in­di­vid­ual merit. Stuben­burg ex­pects to see a ma­jor uptick in clients with the most re­cent ad­di­tions to the leg­is­la­tion, in con­junc­tion with the ear­lier changes.

“We’ve been help­ing pretty sig­nif­i­cantly ever since the law changed back in 2015,” Stuben­burg said. “We sus­pect all the peo­ple we helped get a part of their record ex­punged … will now need as­sis­tance again to get the fi­nal pieces off their record.”

The most no­table mis­de­meanor con­vic­tions now el­i­gi­ble for ex­punge­ment are drug pos­ses­sion, drug para­pher­na­lia, tres­pass, theft and as­sault sec­ond de­gree, said Stuben­burg. The full list can be found at mvl­slaw.org.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive from MVSL can be reached through its in­take line at 1-800-510-0050 or through its on­line ap­pli­ca­tion process, avail­able on the MVSL web­site.

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